Update from President Robbins on campus safety
In the weeks ahead, members of the university administration will meet with faculty and staff to listen to concerns, receive suggestions and answer questions related to campus security.
Below is a message sent to University of Arizona students and employees on Monday by President Robert C. Robbins about the campus security following the Oct. 5 shooting on campus that left one professor dead.
Dear Students and Colleagues,
Last week, many of us came together to honor the memory and to celebrate the life of Professor Tom Meixner, who was so tragically killed on October 5. Tom was an amazing man, whose impact went well beyond his immediate colleagues and students, family and friends. Our thoughts are with all of them, including members of the Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences, who have our unequivocal support.
As you know, last week I announced a broad, independent expert review of our campus security, which will include how the University handled the matters involving the shooter. I understand that there are many questions about what the University knew about the behavior of a former student, its response to that behavior, and what more might have been done to prevent the tragedy. I also recognize that many of you have suggestions, thoughts, and concerns that you want to share with us.
As we await the conclusions and potential recommendations from the review, and in the interest of openness and transparency, I first want to share with you some of the steps that the University took to address the threatening behavior from the former student. If we could have done better, we will acknowledge it and make changes. But I do believe it is important for you to know that the University took action in regard to the conduct directed toward Professor Meixner and others.
- In January 2022, the former student initially was prohibited from University property.
- In February 2022, the Dean of Students determined that the former student had violated the Student Code of Conduct and recommended expulsion for his behavior directed at University personnel.
- The University assisted the Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences in moving faculty.
- Department leadership was provided with pictures of the former student to distribute to members of the department with instructions on how and when to call police.
- The University changed the entry passwords for rooms to which the former student had access as a graduate student.
- The University contacted the former student’s previous educational institution to ascertain additional information about his history, but to no avail.
- The University educated impacted faculty on the legal options available to them—including the filing of harassment charges and injunctions—as well as the opportunity to pursue criminal charges against the former student with the Pima County Attorney’s Office (PCAO).
- In the Spring of 2022, UAPD brought information forward to the PCAO in an attempt to charge the former student based on his communications directed toward a University staff member. The PCAO declined to move forward with charges.
- University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD) officers made at least two visits to the former student’s home to follow up on threats he had made against University personnel. Officers spoke with him on one of those occasions in April.
- In June 2022, at the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings following his appeal, the former student was formally expelled. Upon expulsion from the University, he was permanently banned from campus and university activities.
- In August 2022, the University diverted incoming emails from the former student to University email accounts into a separate email account that could be reviewed by UAPD and certain other parties.
- In mid-September 2022, UAPD again sought charges against the former student by bringing information forward to PCAO regarding the former student’s harassment of faculty. As of this date, the PCAO has not notified UAPD of its determination on those charges.
Since the tragic killings of three University employees nearly twenty years ago, the University has had in place a Threat Assessment Management Team, composed of multi-disciplinary experts from across the University to evaluate and respond to threatening or potentially violent situations. TAMT is there to assist faculty, staff, and students, and ANY member of the University community can reach out to TAMT to report threats at hr.arizona.edu/tam.
In addition, I want to remind you that our Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) is there to provide you with support, tips, and resources, and I would strongly encourage all of you to visit cirt.arizona.edu for information.
I understand that, ultimately, the actions of University personnel and of others in the months leading up to last week’s tragedy did not prevent this tragic loss of life. However, as the information shared above indicates, the University did take action within our authority—we worked closely with the faculty in the Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences and took their concerns seriously; we took prudent measures available to us under the law to keep our faculty, staff, and students safe; and we pursued criminal charges against the student. We have people and processes in place to respond to potential threats and concerning conduct on campus because we know that your safety and security is fundamental to your work, research, and studies. We also do this because we care.
The independent review will help inform us about what additional or different steps could have been taken to better protect our faculty, staff, students, and visitors and how we can improve our response, policies, and procedures involving campus safety and security in the future. We will share changes and new initiatives as they are implemented.
In the weeks ahead, members of the administration will meet with faculty and staff from every college across campus to listen to your concerns, to receive your suggestions and to answer your questions as we are able. In the meantime, I invite you to provide your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions regarding campus safety directly to our leadership team by submitting your anonymous comments via this online form. Each comment will be read, and every suggestion will be considered. Everything is on the table for consideration, including the examination of how the University can enhance its approach to violent threats while balancing civil liberty protections with the health and safety of our community; the implementation of more stringent physical security for our campus and buildings; and how we can support changes to external systems that respond to threats and acts of violence on campuses.
Thank you to all of our faculty, staff, students, and community members who have stepped up to offer your support, your cooperation, your collaboration, and your compassion during this difficult time. We are a resilient community, and we will move forward, together.
Robert C. Robbins, M.D.
The University of Arizona
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